The week of 4-3: Champions' resilience denies an almost famous comeback

Everton's revival in vain as Ruud steals Blue thunder

Everton 3 Manchester United 4

Manchester United may have found an ideal partner for Ruud Van Nistelrooy in Louis Saha but Sir Alex Ferguson may yet have cause to regret not also investing in a central defender during the recent transfer window after watching his side escape from squandering a three-goal lead yesterday. Each of Everton's second half goals resulted from United's failure to deal with set-piece crosses and betrayed a defence with a soft centre.

Two goals from Saha either side of Van Nistelrooy's 100th goal for United had given them a seemingly unassailable advantage by half time. But in this, the week of the comeback, Everton staged a remarkable revival with second-half goals from David Unsworth, a John O'Shea own goal, and Kevin Kilbane - all three headers. But just when it seemed the Merseyside club had earned a point, that man Van Nistelrooy met Cristiano Ronaldo's precise 89th- minute cross to win the match.

The result was the same as at White Hart Lane in midweek, the away team's late winner proving the decisive goal in seven, but this time the dream comeback was thwarted as United maintained the pressure on Arsenal at the top of the Premiership. "It was a problem every time they put the ball into the penalty area," said Ferguson. "In the last few weeks the defence has become a real worry for us."

The return of Ryan Giggs yesterday freed Paul Scholes to move in-field to partner Roy Keane at the expense of Phil Neville. Now that Saha has arrived to partner Van Nistelrooy, who has frequently been asked to lead the line on his own this season, Ferguson has adjusted his tactics. Presuming the long-term intention is to play the two together, United now have three successive home games in which to perfect the new system before the Champions' League resumes and they travel to Portugal to face Porto. Playing their second game in tandem since Saha's arrival, their burgeoning partnership has already yielded six goals.

For all of David Moyes' declarations of satisfaction at his team's recent form, four defeats and three draws since beating Norwich City is hardly inspiring. Just 13 goals in 16 League games before yesterday tells its own story, but on this occasion it was their defending that let them down.

Van Nistelrooy should have scored within three minutes - not that he had much longer to wait. A trademark precise, low strike from Scholes rebounded off the post but the Dutch striker, could only redirect the ball over the bar from eight yards.

Saha made no such mistake minutes later. Mikaël Silvestre's long, straight ball over the top gave him ample opportunity to race clear of Everton's ponderous defence before an emphatic finish did little to enhance Nigel Martyn's 600th League appearance. The goalkeeper was similarly exposed midway through the first half when Van Nistelrooy reacted quickest to reach a loose ball and beat him from close range.

With less than half an hour gone, Saha had his second and the game was as good as over - or so it seemed. Scholes found the French striker alone on the corner of the penalty area and his low finish was as clinical as it was predictable. But for astonishing misses from Saha and Van Nistelrooy when clean through, United would have been five up by the break. On each occasion the away support feigned derision. It was that sort of a game. Long before half-time, Ferguson was waving to the same fans as a brief snow storm continued the rather bizarre afternoon.

Moyes aimed to stem the flow - he had to do something - by introducing all three substitutes at half-time including Wayne Rooney. "I could have taken off any of the players at half-time," said Moyes. "We didn't defend well in the first half but Manchester United played some tremendous stuff. But it was too easy for them. I felt the players had to show that they cared - and they did that."

His team immediately pulled a goal back within minutes of the restart. Gary Naysmith's corner was flicked on by Duncan Ferguson for Unsworth to head in. The champions' defence hardly looked impervious and Rooney forced Tim Howard into two good saves.

From the second of these, another Everton corner resulted in a goal. This time O'Shea got the decisive touch. Everton's famous comeback appearedcompleted by Kilbane. Yet again the source was a cross - for the third time in half an hour, United had failed to deal with it.

"Everton were fantastic after the break," said Ferguson. "Our first-half performance was as good as any in years away from home but full marks to David Moyes. They gave us all sorts of problems. I've never let a three-goal lead slip in my managerial career so I was delighted by Ronaldo's fantastic cross for the winner.''

Everton 3
Unsworth 49, O'Shea og 65, Kilbane 75

Manchester United 4
Saha 9, 29, Van Nistelrooy 24, 89

Half-time: 0-3 Attendance: 40,190

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?